Today Mark outlined the Greens' support for this Private Members Bill which requires the State Commission Assessment Panel to meet and deliberate in public, as local council development assessment panels do, and requires that the members who serve on that panel are accredited to the same standard as those who serve on council assessment panels.
Planning, Development and Infrastructure (Transparency) Amendment Bill
I rise on behalf of the Greens to support this bill. It will come as no shock to members, because I have spoken about the State Commission Assessment Panel in this place many times. I am not sure if I am on their Christmas card list, but I am certainly a frequent flyer when it comes to attending meetings of the State Commission Assessment Panel, and I have been critical of that body over a period of years, long before they achieved their new name, back when they were the Development Assessment Commission—way back. I have appeared before the SCAP and its predecessor many times, and I have been very critical of many of their operations.
The bill that the Hon. Clare Scriven has put before us is a very simple reform in relation to SCAP. It requires that body to meet and deliberate in public, as local council development assessment panels do, and also requires that the members who serve on that panel are accredited to the same standard as those who serve on council assessment panels; so it is pretty straightforward.
Whilst I am not proposing to move any amendments to the honourable member's bill, there are a number of other reforms that could equally have been put in here, not the least of which amendments would be to require them to publish more of their materials and to keep those materials available in an archive.
What I am talking about here is that when someone applies for a development approval, the SCAP will usually put the plans and the planning officer's report and all of the supporting documentation on their website, and they will put it on their website for a brief period of time. The day that public consultation ends, they pull those documents off the website, and a snide little comment goes up saying, 'If you want to see these documents, you must go through freedom of information.'
These are documents that were publicly available for download on the SCAP website. The minute that they can hide them, they hide them, and they tell you to go through FOI. That says a lot to me about the culture of that organisation. They do not really welcome community input, they do not provide reasons for the decisions that they make, and that is one of the reasons the Hon. Clare Scriven has moved this bill. Even the Law Society agrees that if you are not providing any reasons for your decision you might as well allow people to sit in and hear the deliberations. It is a very logical position.
The fact that they do not provide reasons for their decision is an insult to those who take the trouble to make written submissions and who take the trouble to turn up to hearings and have their say about the future of development in this state. To then only find out some period of later that it was approved with no reason whatsoever given for that decision, I think is appalling. I support the Hon. Clare Scriven's introduction of this very simple bill, and I look forward to its passage through the Legislative Council tonight.